Weather Report - Tale Spinnin' and Return To Forever - Musicmagic album reviews

SACD reissues for both ends of the jazz-rock spectrum.

Weather Report - Tale Spinnin' album artwork

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Despite their near-constant state of flux in the first half of the 70s, Weather Report released a sequence of remarkably consistent albums, thanks to the continuity brought by Josef Zawinul and Wayne Shorter.

1975’s hugely underrated Tale Spinnin’ also benefits from the constantly inventive articulation of drummer Leon Chancler, then on loan for a week from Santana. The ebullient swing across the record, courtesy of Chancler and bassist Alphonso Johnson, makes this an uplifting experience.

Whether it’s the hurtling unison themes of The Man In The Green Shirt or Shorter’s soprano sax skipping over the surface of Zawinul’s undulating synth waves during Between The Thighs, joyous interplay and fiercely passionate playing occur at almost every beat. Badia, presaging the electro-acoustic ethno-music ruminations of Jon Hassell’s Fourth World music, brims with diaphanous melody that suddenly comes into sharp focus, illustrating the group’s ability to surprise and delight.

‘Do you ever think what life will be, where you will go after you die?’ croons Gayle Moran on 1977’s Musicmagic. It’s typical of the cosmically inclined lyrics that mar what is potentially, in places, a quite decent instrumental album.

Augmented by a five-piece horn section that in theory gives principal composers Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke a greater textural reach, there are momentary triumphs. Too often, however, a muzak-like smoothness dulls their impact. Though capable of brilliance, the final Return To Forever studio album of the 70s is not their finest hour.

Perhaps in a case of beauty being in the ear of the beholder, while the SACD format of these two reissues promises an enhanced listening experience, though the sound is agreeably bright and crisp, to these ears there’s no significant difference in audio quality when played back-to-back with either the previous CD reissues or the original vinyl of both these albums.

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.